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Industry Leaders Cheer as USMCA Trade Deal Passes in the House

President Donald Trump nabbed a post-impeachment victory on Thursday, when the House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved a new trade accord between the United States and its neighbors.

Lawmakers voted 385-41 to approve the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement — the White House’s replacement deal for the North American Free Trade Agreement that has been hailed as a “victory for American workers,” with updated labor rules as well as provisions for agriculture, technology, manufacturing and other business sectors.

Trade groups reacted positively to the announcement, commending the U.S. Trade Representative’s office and the House’s leadership for moving the legislation forward. (The USMCA had long received Republican backing, but some Democrats had taken issue with its legal language regarding the enforcement of new labor laws.)

“The passage of [the] USMCA is a positive step for the apparel and footwear industry, and one that will strengthen our North American supply chains that support hundreds of thousands of American jobs,” said Rick Helfenbein, president and CEO of the American Apparel and Footwear Association.

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The National Retail Federation, which has supported the administration’s efforts to modernize NAFTA, also welcomed the pact.

“These modernized provisions will help ensure that North American trade policy reflects today’s global economy and will continue to benefit the U.S. economy,” said SVP for government relations David French. “USMCA is a meaningful trade victory that will provide benefits for decades to come.”

Footwear Distributors and Retailers of America president and CEO Matt Priest was more cautious about the timing of the bill’s passage, particularly as the U.S. has yet to finalize the legal text for a “phase one” trade deal with China.

“After a year of uncertainty as it relates to trade policy, it’s good to see a bipartisan approach to enhancing our relationship with our largest trading partners, Mexico and Canada,” Priest told FN. “While the footwear provisions under the USMCA are identical to those of the NAFTA, the last thing our industry needed was additional trade disruption right here in our backyard.”

The USMCA still requires approval from the Senate, which could ratify the deal in early 2020.

Trump had pledged in his 2016 presidential campaign to do away with NAFTA — a nearly quarter-century-old pact that eliminated tariffs on many goods traded among the three countries.

Last week, the American leader tweeted that the USMCA bill would be “the best and most important trade deal ever made by the USA” and “good for everybody.” U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer added in a statement at the time that the agreement “will benefit American workers, farmers and ranches for years to come” and “will be the model for American trade deals going forward.”

This story has been updated with comments from the NRF.

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